07/31/07 7:35 PM ET
Notes: GM takes slumps in stride
Shapiro far from panicking over Tribe's recent struggles
By David Briggs / MLB.com
The Indians may be struggling, but hey, so is everyone else.
"Every team but I think two teams are around .500 over the past month," Shapiro said. "It's unbelievable."
So it's easy to understand why Shapiro isn't panicking over the Indians having dropped 13 of their last 22 games and five of their last seven series.
"I don't think there's any alarm," Shapiro said. "Within a 162-game schedule, you're going to have stretches like that."
Shapiro likes to point to the fact that the Indians, thanks to their top-of-the-rotation brilliance, have never lost more than three games in a row. And to the game's capricious nature. Most notably, the Tribe knew the comebacks the Indians made their first-half calling card could never continue at the same pace.
Yet while Shapiro isn't losing sleep these days, that could change if the Tribe's August follows the lead of July.
"I'm not satisfied with [this stretch]," Shapiro said. "I don't think that's going to be good enough going forward. ... We've got to get going."
Manager Eric Wedge, for his part, is hardly worried.
"We are a team and these guys find a way to get it done in the end," Wedge said. "And I expect that to continue."
Fultz ready to go? Injured reliever Aaron Fultz "felt fine" in a pair of rehab outings and could be activated as soon as Wednesday, Wedge indicated.
The final decision will be made after Wedge meets with Shapiro following Tuesday's game, but Fultz appears good to go.
Fultz, recovering from a strained rib muscle, pitched a perfect inning Monday at Double-A Akron in his first rehab stint. The 33-year-old situational lefty did the same Tuesday at Class A Lake County.
Laffey on track: Triple-A starter Aaron Laffey continues to be the front-runner to fill Saturday's vacant starting spot after another solid outing Monday at Buffalo.
Working with a 50-pitch limit, the 22-year-old left-hander allowed two runs -- one earned -- on two hits over four innings. Laffey is now 11-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 20 outings this year at Akron and Buffalo.
"He maintained his position as the most likely alternative [Saturday]," Shapiro said.
Nixon coming on: The coaches saw it in his swings, in his bat speed and in the way the ball was driving off his bat. As Trot Nixon became more and more removed from offseason back surgery, the Indians saw a player ready to break out.
The numbers said otherwise. Nixon was hitting just .238 with 26 RBIs, his best days seeming far in the past.
Yet he kept working.
"I'm not going to let it hold me down," Nixon said. "I've made some great strides."
And, at last, this became evident outside the clubhouse. Nixon has hit in eight of his last 10 games, and since June 20, he's hitting .300.
"I think as the year goes on and he gets stronger, we're starting to see better swings," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "The biggest thing is we're seeing him stronger under his legs. He's getting to the point where he's finally healthy."
Tribe tidbits: Asdrubal Cabrera is back where he started his Indians career. The 21-year-old shortstop, fast emerging as one of the organization's top position prospects, was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo Monday. Acquired from the Mariners last June in the trade that shipped out Eduardo Perez, Cabrera struggled with the Bisons last year. But after being dropped to Double-A Akron this year, Cabrera has flourished, hitting .310 with 23 doubles, eight homers and 54 RBIs. ... Josh Barfield's famous father paid a visit to the Tribe's clubhouse before Tuesday's game. Jesse Barfield, a former American League home run champion, looked on from behind the cage as the Indians took batting practice and even spent a few minutes watching video of the night's starting pitcher with his son in the clubhouse. ... C.C. Sabathia's 3.58 ERA is the lowest of his career through this point of the year. In 2004, the left-hander had a 3.62 ERA at the end of July.
Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo outfielder Jason Cooper went 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs and first baseman Ryan Mulhern went 3-for-4 with a run scored as the Bisons topped Syracuse, 7-2, Monday night. ... Double-Akron was off. ... Starter Kevin Dixon (10-3) allowed three runs -- two earned -- over five innings and first baseman Matthew Whitney hit a two-run homer in Class A Kinston's 5-4 loss to Myrtle Beach. ... Class A Lake County starter Hector Rondon (7-7) gave up one run on four hits while striking out five over five innings in the Captains' 4-1 loss to Greenville.
On deck: The Tribe continues its three-game set with the Rangers on Wednesday night at Jacobs Field. Paul Byrd (9-4, 4.40 ERA) will be opposed by Texas left-hander John Heineken (1-0, 3.60 ERA).
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.